Pea and Parmesan Barley Risotto

Sometimes when I don't have all the right ingredients on hand, I make substitutions that ruin a dish. But sometimes, if I'm lucky, I create a surprisingly delicious new concoction that becomes a classic in my kitchen.

Fortunately this risotto is a case of the latter for me. I'd been meaning to make it for months and finally got around to it just a few days ago, only to discover I was all out of white wine and yellow onion. I worried that a red onion would add too much sweetness and a half cup of red wine would create too distinct a flavor. I was delighted to find that they combined to create a magical risotto combination.

Risotto is one of those seemingly daunting culinary quests that actually only requires a bit of time and an arm workout. This barley risotto is a bit of a twist on the classic risotto made from rice. I stuck to the staple ingredients of the most basic risottos out there, so it's got a wonderful time-tested flavor profile that is sure to please. It's a great comfort food and really versatile - once you get the basics of risotto down (stir, stir, stir!), you can make all sorts of herbal, cheese, wine, and vegetable variations.

The recipe below is the recipe I created and intended to use. My particular version as photographed used a red onion in place of a yellow one and red wine instead of white. If you don't have all the listed ingredients on hand or you'd like to follow my variations, feel free to experiment! Enjoy!

Pea and Parmesan Barley Risotto

  • 3 cups cooking stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat cooking stock over medium to medium-low heat.
  2. In large sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic until soft and fragrant.
  3. Add all the barley to sauce pan and toast 2 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 cup of stock and stir constantly. Once liquid is mostly evaporated (barley will begin to get sticky), add another 1/2 cup.
  5. Continue this process of constantly stirring and adding 1/2 cup stock once the previous addition has been absorbed and/or evaporated.
  6. Once half of the stock has been used (about 3 half-cup additions), add the wine, continuing to stir constantly. As soon as the wine has been evaporated, continue stock-adding process.
  7. Add peas with the last 1/2 cup of stock.
  8. Turn off heat and add cheese, butter, salt and pepper. Give a good stir and then serve. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan if desired. Enjoy!


  1. mmmmm!
    this looks so good!
    I'm going to have to try it.


  2. I actually enjoy the slow process of risotto making (once in awhile, anyway), and I think it's really neat when a substitution you make out of necessity/ items on hand turns out to be unexpectedly delicious! I'll have to try this with the barley, I actually have some barley in the pantry but no arborio rice, so I have no excuse not to. Great blog, glad I found it!

  3. mmm! this barley risotto looks delicious! isn't it great when substitutions turn out to taste even better than the actual ingredient?


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